September 24, 2015
Crisis: Pope Francis, Human Rights, Money, Chomsky, Snowden Treaty, Europe

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton

Prev- crisis -Next


The One Thing Pope Francis Could Say That Would Truly
     Stun Congress

2. U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi
     Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

Time for the Nuclear Option: Raining Money on Main

4. History Doesn’t Go In a Straight Line
5. 'The Snowden Treaty': Pact to End Mass Spying Would
     Honor NSA Whistleblower
Facebook case may force European firms to change data
     storage practices

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, September 24, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about pope Francis, but I don't agree with the article; item 2 is on an article by Glenn Greenwald about Saudi Arabia being head of the UN Human Rights Panel; item 3 is about "helicopter money"; item 4 is about a recent interview with Noam Chomsky; item 5 is about "The Snowden Treaty"; and item 6 is about a possible European decision that European data may not be stored on American servers anymore, because the latter break the privacy conventions Europe upholds.

1. The One Thing Pope Francis Could Say That Would Truly Stun Congress

The first article today is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
There are many things Pope Francis could say in his Thursday address to Congress that would make its members uncomfortable. Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican Catholic from Arizona, has already announced that he’s refusing to attend because the Pope may urge action on global warming. The Pope could also strongly criticize capitalism, as he did in great detail in his 2013 apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel

But the Pope’s critique of the world has an even more radical component, one that’s gotten little notice in the United States — maybe because it’s so radical that many Americans, members of Congress in particular, might not even understand what he’s saying.

And what Francis is saying is that capitalism and our growing environmental disasters are rooted in an even older, larger problem: centuries of European colonialism. Moreover, he suggests this colonialism has never really ended, but merely changed forms — and much of U.S. foreign policy that’s purportedly about terrorism, or drugs, or corruption, or “free trade,” is actually colonialism in disguise.

I say. But in fact I don't think I believe it. Here are two reasons.

First, "
our growing environmental disasters" are - it seems to me - not rooted on "centuries of European colonialism". I don't say they are wholly independent of it, but it seems to me global warming is more recent than "colonialism": it started happening in the second half of the 20th century, not in the second half of the 18th century.

Second, I'd say "U.S. foreign policy" that is "
purportedly about terrorism, or drugs, or corruption, or “free trade”" is better uderstood as being in fact a kind of  unrestrained profit-oriented capitalism than as "colonialism in disguise". And again I don't say colonialism has nothing to do with it, but I do say that the contexts and the mechanisms are capitalistic rather than colonialistic (without making the motives or the rates of exploitation any better, indeed).

Then again, I don't think the pope suggested that "colonialism never really ended", which also sounds incoherent to me: The British and the Dutch - for example - were forced to give up enormous territories they had conquered and owned and exploited for centuries around WW II, and also disappeared as colonial exploiters. The capitalism that replaced colonialism was not more friendly nor less profit oriented, but it was not "colonial" anymore, simply because these colonies ceased to be.

Indeed, here is a part of what the pope wrote:
The Earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil.” … Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women. …
We see the rise of new forms of colonialism, which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice. … The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain “free trade” treaties, and the imposition of measures of “austerity,” which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.
He is talking about capital and capitalism, and also about "new forms of colonialism", that he in fact presents as forms of exploitative capitalism.

But I don't want to defend the pope. I do want to say, though, based on a brief survey of Wikipedia, that it seems to me that at least part of the reason that
Jon Schwarz made this mistake may be due to postmodernism.

2. U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

The next article today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’s most brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.

Most of the world may be horrified at the selection of Saudi Arabia to head a key U.N. human rights panel, but the U.S. State Department most certainly is not. Quite the contrary: its officials seem quite pleased about the news.
I say. That seems rather like nominating Hitler around 1940 as chief protector of the Jews. Here is Wikipedia: "Human rights in Saudi Arabia": It is pretty damning, and correctly so.

Then again, this also seems to me a herald of a much wider process: The indifference of the rulers of the U.S. to democratic opinions. They know that the main media have been largely taken over by editors and journalists who can be trusted only to inform the public about the things the government agrees the public may know, and therefore they do as they please, included making "the worst of the worst" regimes (Wikipedia, quoted) the head of the human rights panel.

Here is the end of Glenn Greenwald's article:

It’s not hard to understand why so many of the elite sectors of the West want everyone to avert their eyes from this deep and close relationship with the Saudis. It’s because that alliance single-handedly destroys almost every propagandistic narrative told to the Western public about that region.

As the always-expanding “War on Terror” enters its 14th year, the ostensible target — radical, violent versions of Islam — is fueled far more by the U.S.’s closest allies than any of the countries the U.S. has been fighting under the “War on Terror” banner. Beyond that, the alliance proves the complete absurdity of believing that the U.S. and U.K.’s foreign policies, let alone their various wars, have anything to do with protecting human rights or subverting tyranny and fanaticism. And it renders a complete laughingstock any attempts to depict the U.S. government as some sort of crusader for freedom and democracy or whatever other pretty goals are regularly attributed to it by its helpful press.

Well... yes and no: Yes, for the relatively few who read outside the main media, but no for the rest: They will still accept that the "the U.S. government" is "some sort of crusader for freedom and democracy" because that is the story the main media do plug.

I agree it is completely false, but it is widespread.

3. Time for the Nuclear Option: Raining Money on Main Street

The next article today is by Ellen Brown on Truthdig (originally on Web of Debt):

This starts as follows:

Predictions are that we will soon be seeing the “nuclear option” — central bank-created money injected directly into the real economy. All other options having failed, governments will be reduced to issuing money outright to cover budget deficits. So warns a September 18 article on ZeroHedge titled “It Begins: Australia’s Largest Investment Bank Just Said ‘Helicopter Money’ Is 12-18 Months Away.”

Note that this is based on "governments will be reduced to issuing money
outright to cover budget deficits
", together with this:

The Zerohedge prediction is based on a release from Macqurie, Australia’s largest investment bank. It notes that GDP is contracting, deflationary pressures are accelerating, public and private sectors are not driving the velocity of money higher, and central bank injections of liquidity are losing their effectiveness. Current policies are not working.

And it is also based on this (and Willem Buiter is a leading economist, also recently quoted by Paul Krugman, who also got some fame for being the ex-
lover of Heleen Mees [1]):

Willem Buiter, chief global economist at Citigroup, is also recommending “helicopter money drops” to avoid an imminent global recession, stating:

A global recession starting in 2016 led by China is now our Global Economics team’s main scenario. Uncertainty remains, but the likelihood of a timely and effective policy response seems to be diminishing. . . .

Helicopter money drops in China, the euro area, the UK, and the U.S. and debt restructuring . . . can mitigate and, if implemented immediately, prevent a recession during the next two years without raising the risk of a deeper and longer recession later.

I say. There is considerably more in the article. (I doubt there will be any
real helicopter-money, but it may happen in Europe through providing cheap
loans to the many rather than to the few, as Jeremy Corbyn has proposed.)

4. History Doesn’t Go In a Straight Line

The next article today is by Noam Chomsky:
In fact, while this article is attributed to Chomsky it is based on an interview
Tommasso Segantini had with him. I think it is a good interview, but will only quote parts of Chomsky's answers in this review.

First, there is this on Europe and the euro:
In fact, recovery from the Great Depression was actually faster in many countries than it is today, for a lot of reasons. In the case of Europe, one of the main reasons is that the establishment of a single currency was a built-in disaster, like many people pointed out.
Yes, indeed: I get now more than twice the amount of money I got before the euro was introduced, but all prices went up by more than that amount, so I have less and less money. (Who pocketed the difference? The rich.) [2]

Next, there is this on Syriza and Greece:
There are people who criticize the Syriza tactics and the stand that they took, but I think it’s hard to see what options they had with the lack of external support.
Yes, I agree.

Then there is this on Bernie Sanders, in two parts. First:

Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. A real political alternative would be across the board, not just a figure in the White House.
I agree, but then again he wants to change the system. And secondly, Chomsky said:
In fact, the Sanders campaign I think is valuable — it’s opening up issues, it’s maybe pressing the mainstream Democrats a little bit in a progressive direction, and it is mobilizing a lot of popular forces, and the most positive outcome would be if they remain after the election.
Again I agree - and he is waking up people. Then there is this on Corbyn:
Take Corbyn in England: he’s under fierce attack, and not only from the Conservative establishment, but even from the Labour establishment. Hopefully Corbyn will be able to withstand that kind of attack; that depends on popular support. If the public is willing to back him in the face of the defamation and destructive tactics, then it can have an impact. Same with Podemos in Spain.
I agree - and it will not be easy. Finally, there is this on "neoliberalism"
The neoliberal policies are certainly a regression. For the majority of the population in the US, there’s been pretty much stagnation and decline in the last generation. And not because of any economic laws. These are policies. Just as austerity in Europe is not an economic necessity — in fact, it’s economic nonsense. But it’s a policy decision undertaken by the designers for their own purposes.
And I agree again, and note that 35 years - since 1980 - is a long time, that shows the "neoliberal" forces, which are the forces of the very rich, have mostly won.

5. 'The Snowden Treaty': Pact to End Mass Spying Would Honor NSA Whistleblower

The next article today is by Nadia Prupis on Commen Dreams: This starts as follows:

Two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations made global headlines, a new international pact for privacy rights is being launched—the Snowden Treaty, an agreement that would "curtail mass surveillance and protect the rights of whistleblowers."

"Protecting the right to privacy is vital not just in itself but because it is essential requirement for exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, the most fundamental pillars of democracy," the drafters—Snowden, journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, and Greenwald's partner David Miranda—explain in their proposal, which will be formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday and encourages both individual citizens and global governments to sign up.

The proposal states:

  • We demand for privacy on the internet.
  • We demand that the government grant us the right to privacy in our homes.
  • We demand that the government protect our personal privacy online.

Launched along with the website, the pact is officially titled the International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers (pdf).

I completely agree, as I do to the following:

"This breach of millions of people’s privacy is in direct contravention of international human right law. In particular, the right to privacy is enshrined in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 17 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights," the drafters write.
And here it is:

Article 12.

    • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Incidentally, I reject the "European Convention of Human Rights", for that seems to have been written by lawyers working for the GCHQ or other secret services. See note [3].

It has been signed already by Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and others.

6. Facebook case may force European firms to change data storage practices

The final article today is by Owen Bowcott on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

European companies may have to review their widespread practice of storing digital data with US internet companies after a court accused America’s intelligence services of conducting “mass, indiscriminate surveillance”.

The influential opinion by the European court of justice’s advocate general, Yves Bot, yet to be confirmed by the Luxembourg court as final, is a significant development in the battle over online privacy. The court normally follows the advocate general’s opinion; ECJ judgments are binding on EU countries.

The finding is a fresh victory for the Austrian campaigner Maximilian Schrems, who initially brought a claim against Facebook in Ireland in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

I say. This is interesting - and yes: European private data (like mine) are
swallowed up by the NSA simply because these data tend to be stored on American servers, while non-Americans have even less rights than Americans.

If any EU country considers that transferring data to servers abroad undermines the protection of citizens, the advocate general’s finding said, it has the power to suspend that transfer “irrespective of the general assessment made by the [EU] commission in its decision”.

“The access of the United States intelligence services to the data transferred covers, in a comprehensive manner, all persons using electronic communications services, without any requirement that the persons concerned represent a threat to national security,” Bot’s opinion noted in one of its most damning sections.

“Such mass, indiscriminate surveillance is inherently disproportionate and constitutes an unwarranted interference with the rights guaranteed by articles seven and eight of the charter [of fundamental rights of the EU].”

I agree (but see [3] below: I can't take the "rights" sanctioned by the EU seriously as rights).

And as to Facebook (currently used by 1.5 billion persons who are too stupid or too lazy to write their own sites), there is this:

Everyone on the social network in the EU signs a contract with Facebook Ireland, audited by the data protection commissioner in that country. Under the US-EU data transfer all their details can be accessed by the NSA.

You can trust Facebook as a European! All your data go straight to the NSA!


[1] I have pointed out before that Buiter and Mees (both of whom started out as Dutch) were sexually involved, but that this cannot now be seen from Buiter's Wikipedia file, while it is prominent in Mees's Wikipedia file. I don't like Mees, but this seems to be a little unfair to me.

[2] In fact, I would not be amazed at all if the main point of making a European Union and creating a euro was to make Europe much more like the United States (which is much backward in protecting the poor).

For example, in 1995 I paid 55 guilders for a complete health-insurance. These days I have to - legally enforced - pay 155 euros, more than 6 times as much, to have an insurance which is much less complete than the health-insurance I had; twenty years ago I paid 320 guilders in rent; these days I pay 330 euros (more than 2.2 times as much) for precisely the same house.

And so on, and so forth.

[3] This is article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

And this is article 8 from the "European Convention of Human Rights" which is asserted to replace it:
Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

This means that, completely unlike the Universal Declaration, the "European Convention" insists there are two types of persons: Ordinary people, and the supermen (German: Übermensche) who belong to a government, a police force, a military apparatus, or a secret service, and in fact it is regulated as follows:
If the supermen who are in the government, the military, the police, or the secret service find it in the interests of
  • national security, or
  • public safety, or
  • economic well-being of the country, or
  • prevention or disorder, or
  • prevention of crime, or
  • protection of health, or
  • protection of morals or for
  • protection of the rights and freedoms of others
then no ordinary citizen has any right of respect for his or her human rights (on privacy), but if the supermen from the government, the military, the police, or the secret service find none of these eight conditions apply, then everyone to whom this applies does still not have the right to be protected from "arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation", but does enjoy the enormous luxury that - for these cases, and these cases alone - they have a right on respect for their (otherwise unspecified) "rights" to "a private life".
The Gestapo would have gladly signed that article, so it is no miracle that the GCHQ continuously insists that they abide by "European Convention of Human Rights": These do not exist as soon as one of the supermen who govern us decide they are inconvenient for them.

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